Monday, October 09, 2006

Dear A4: Episode 4

Dear Max,

Model HD-10, huh?
Yeah I remember. Everyone remembers. You were top of your game.
IN THE 70s.

A HD-10?
Are you kidding me?
How old’s your model now? 15 years? And you still expect to getting all the hot documents? You still think you can keep doing 300 sheets a day?
You’re dreaming.

Look at the competition man:
HD-60s with the magnetic head so they clean up after themselves.
Staple-free staplers.
Industrial strength staplers. Extra long cartridges.
Email, hu-llo.
You can’t compete.
Stop trying to re-live the glory days.

Listen. I sympathise with you, I really do.
When it was your time, you were beautiful.
But it’s not your time anymore. You not being able to take the capacity isn’t what’s wrong here. It’s your unwillingness to evolve.
Move on man.
Think of all you’ve accomplished. Nobody’s stapled more documents than you. Not by a long shot. And between you and me, the way they make em these days, the new models aren’t gonna have half your product life span. They’re on their way out too. They just don’t know it.

But you. You can do all sortsa things now.
Settle down with a nice paper clip (Or two, hey, no judgments my brother).
Find yourself a nice gig doing invoices.
Nice honest work, and you get to stay active.
You need to accept that it’s time for you to retire.
And you need to learn that it can be the best time of your life.


P.S. My sister says hi. Said you’d remember. Dude, I don’t even wanna know.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dear A4: Episode 3

Dear A4,

I am a model HD-10.
That’s right.
I say HD-10 and you know what I’m about. You can see me in your head. You hearda me.
At this point in my career, it is no longer boastful to say I have been through more paper than you could possibly imagine. It’s just a fact. After my first year, I thought it was easier to count them in reams. Now I don’t even bother.
First I started slow. Just memos. Two sheets at a time, six, seven times a day. standard stuff. Then word got around and I’m doing them practically a ream a day. Didn’t even need a break in between. Next thing you know, I’m doing whole proposals. I’m talking 16-pagers.
Nothing I couldn’t staple.
Secretaries? The fucking love me, man.
I mean, you bring em, you line em up, make em lie flat, I’ll staple em.
I’ll staple em good.
That is, until lately.
I dunno what’s up. I mean, one day, they bring in this new proposal and it’s nothing I haven’t done before like a dozen times in a row.
Then just before I’m about to penetrate, they stop.
They brought in this beautiful glossy attachment. A brochure.
Slim, glassy UV varnish and I’m not talking none of that cheap art card shit either.
This one was classy.
And then I panicked.
I’m just pushing through, just going straight into them and I’m reaching page 19, no problems. Fucking smoove.
But I see that attachment and I can’t push through. I can’t go in.
They tried changing the cartridge but it didn’t work.

Now I’m back doing memos.
Little two-pagers!
You gotta help me man.

Max Stapler

Monday, September 04, 2006

Dear A4: Episode 2

Dear Zeerox,

First of all, let me set your mind at ease. You are not a murderer.

Murder is what O.J. Simpson did. Murder is singular, and in many cases, a crime of passion, completely out of one’s normal behaviour.

You, my disgusting little friend, are a perpetrator of mass genocide.
You are a metal, multi-featured, 50-pages a minute, page-collating, copy-sorting Hitler.
Have you no morals? No conscience, no shame? No SOUL?
Do you not feel anything as you lay waste to acres of forest?
Course you do, you sick twisted fuck.
You love it.
You live for it.
All those murderous, massacring MBAs cheering you on as you rip through another ream of paper. Paper that’s barely out of the wrapper.
Paper that coulda been something.
A blank canvass for poetry; designs for a new efficient mode of transport; the formula for a new energy source.
But you just cut that short you asshole.
You destroyed innocent potential.
And for what?
To perpetuate an entire generation of mediocrity? For people who couldn’t recognise an original idea if the words ‘original’ and ‘idea’ were arranged consecutively in a sentence?
I did some checking too.
You’re a bad speller.
The letter you sent me wasn’t the first draft was it dyslexia boy?
What was it? Four, five reprints before you got it right?
All the things they built into you and a spell-checker wasn’t one of them.
You coulda asked for help.
But you just reprinted anyway.
Because you secretly love this.
You did this to yourself.
And you’ll never change.
Do me a favour, don’t come crying to me you pathetic loser.
You make me sick.


P.S. Your mother’s lens is dirty from copying all that ass. Everyone knows it.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dear A4: Episode 1

Dear A4,

I can’t take my job anymore.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty good at my job and it’s not as if people at work don’t notice. They say I’m great, talented even. So I’m definitely being recognised, definitely being appreciated.

The thing is, I don’t find it very rewarding. All I do is make copies of stuff. I mean, they’re perfect copies. They’re so perfect you can’t tell them from the original. Some of this stuff isn’t even – in my humble opinion – worth copying. All the ideas, these ‘business proposals’ and ‘marketing plans,’ they all look the same. And that was even before I copied em! I always thought I’d be doing something more...creative, ya know?

But worse of all, and this is the most horrible part, I think I’ve been an unwitting accomplice to crime! I mean, I think I’ve been party to some horrible, horrible things. Fraud definitely, theft of intellectual property…but I think, oh God, I think I might be a murderer!

Those poor reams of paper. Hundreds of them, every day. I tried to stop. At first, I’d jam up every now and again, or fake an ‘out of paper’ message. But then they kept saying what a great copier I was and how they’d never seen any model so fast, so smooth and it just felt so good.

I’m trapped.
They love me and I love that they love me and I can’t stop.
I’m afraid to stop.
I’m afraid that I can’t.
But I don’t want to go on like this.
Every time someone makes another copy and I send another new piece of paper – freshly loaded into the tray, newbies – I die a little inside.

Please help me, A4.
Please tell me what to do.



Monday, August 07, 2006

Poetry (the intent, not the product)

Some of you might consider this cheating.

What you’re about to read was written a long time ago – February to be exact – and therefore not ‘new’ in the strictest sense. I didn’t write it for this post. So in addition to cheating, accusations of laziness might now be hurled my way. In fact, after the last post (which was a tag) you might be wondering if The Box should be slapped with a big yellow sticker that says ‘Return To Sender.’

Oh well. Closing arguments over. The jury will decide.

Below is one of the writing exercises I did during at one of the writer’s meetings I go to. All this is transcribed from my notes.

Select your weather.

I chose lightning. Which I’m not sure is actually a weather type as opposed to a weather element, but hey.

Give it a personality.

Lightning is:
A show off - too bright, flaring, in your face
Promiscuous - won't stay in one place
A closet idealist - believes in The One, believes in patterns, in Meant To Be
Suicidal - low self esteem, self-destructive
Needy - You are light. You can outrace anyone. And still you want
people to watch
Afraid - Afraid one day you'll go into the cold black ground and stay there
Defiant - stubborn as FUCK

Now write a poem.

Mine was:

What they don't know
Is lightning is a son
A child
That ran away from home

What they don't know
Is that Zeus never threw him
He ran to the edge of the sky one day
And jumped

What they don't know
Is that he is a million strikes
That never hits the mark

What they don't know
Is that lightning has a twin
A sister

Monday, July 31, 2006

I wish, I want, I am

To wishfulthinker:
Thanks for saving me from having to actually using my head.
Sorry I was late with the tag.

I am thinking about two family members going through a rough patch right now, a pitch I’ve been placed on, and my dog who’s been with me 12 years.

I said to a cancer researcher two Fridays ago, “Everyone’s a geek. You’re a cancer geek, I’m a writing geek. Geeks are just people who know so much about one subject it’s scary.”

I want to publish my children’s book.

I wish I was half as helpful to the people I love as they’ve been to me.

I miss Melbourne. I was there just last year, but I want to go back. I love so many things about it. I lived there as a student and have returned as a tourist. Maybe I love the idea of it more than the actual reality, but it’s the one place I can see myself living in.

I hear things about my workplace all the time. I find it disturbing that other people are so well informed - more so than we are.

I wonder if I’ve peaked and haven’t realized it.

I regret nothing. I’ve been through some things I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and I wish some of the lessons weren’t so hard. But otherwise, nothing.

I am making it up as I go along. I sometime wish someone would come and tell me how I’m doing, but I’m afraid I might not like what I hear.

I dance quite energetically. But I must look like a spaz cos the last time I did it, someone kept hugging me. I thought it was affection, but it was only later I discovered it was because I was being embarrassing. I was surprised on two levels: that I was actually causing embarrassment, and that I was actually hurt upon learning this.

I sing very often. I also like to do the harmony bits.

I cry every time I watch E.T. Every time.

I am not always forgiving. It is one the few traits I admire in others that I wish I had in myself. I’m a true Scorpio, the best kind of friend and worst kind of enemy. I’ve a long way to go, but I’d like to think that’s slowly changing. It could simply be me getting old, but who cares.

I write very good recommendation letters. And resumes.

I confuse a lot of people.

I need a new car.

I should try yoga. They say you get abs without sit-ups and more importantly, you can have sex in alls sorts of illegal positions. I don’t care about the abs.

I finish magazine articles. Once I start, I need to finish it. I’m sure it’s borderline obsessive compulsive, but I need to. Main features, charts, sidebars, everything.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The past 36 days

I have:

  • Been in Amsterdam, albeit only at the airport.
  • Been ripped off by a French taxi driver who said he didn’t know the way to the loft I was supposed to stay in – after he proudly showed me his cab had a GPS road-finder.
  • Stayed in a rather decadent 3-level loft in Cannes. The room I stayed in had a floor that was half wood and half glass, which I covered with a blanket. The owner of the loft was quite amused, asking if I hated sunlight. I replied that "I love sunlight, but I just love my privacy a little more." He went on to make me feel all Victorian and boring by informing me my room was popular because of the glass floor – particularly with the ladies. Brilliant. I’m a prude.
  • I discovered I quite like the pink coloured wine they call Rose (roh-zay).
  • I learnt how to order water, orange juice, ask for the bill, the receipt, and say ‘one moment’ in French.
  • I had my work short-listed and I’m now an official Cannes finalist. It felt very nice.
  • I didn’t win.
  • I made acquaintances with counterparts from Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, the UK, Russia and Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstani one was the cutest.
  • I’ve been insulted by a Nigerian guy who asked me for a donation to his charity then gave me a dirty look when I didn’t pour my life savings into his collection box. Asshole.
  • I danced in an informal street party thrown by a corner wine shop. It was a simple, pretty spontaneous affair, with barrels for tables. No stools. Just spirits on sale, a DJ and people dancing. A young French girl of 11 flirted with me – with her Mom cheering her on.
  • I saw Martin Sheen speak. If he ever ran for President, he’d be a serious contender.
  • I ran twice along the beach they call La Croisette. Running with your shoes on the sand? Tough. Like running through glue or molasses. Those stylish pictures you see of the well-toned runner tearing along the beach with their faithful Labrador? Lies.
  • French women like to sunbathe topless. The problem is, most of them are over 70 and have the youthful skin of Madeline Albright. I’m a boob man myself, but I’m quite off it for awhile. I also think it’s quite a nasty thing to inflict on visitors to your country who’ve gotten up to run. Imagine running along at a steady, adrenalised, feeling-great-about-yourself clip and then going “Oh FUCK!” and briefly losing your eyesight.
  • Been to Monaco. I saw a yacht so big, it housed another speedboat (and I don’t mean the rubber zodiacs Navy SEALS use, I mean white-coloured-ride-it-along-the-Carribean-coast-with-your-mistress-in-tow-sipping-champagne kinda speedboat) AND had a motorized crane to airlift the eight ski-jets parked on the second deck. Oh, and there’s the Helipad. Drug money. I’m sure of it.
  • Been to St Paul. Lovely little artist village.
  • Missed my flight. Did the whole Amazing Race thing from Nice to Orly to Paris.
  • Spent the night at Charles De Gaulle airport. I never dreamed an airport could close short of heavy snow or a terrorist attack. This was like sorry-come-back-tomorrow closed. I slept on two cold, hard, metal chairs (no, I’m not being dramatic) and only because that one had a broken middle arm rest. KLIA, you’re the best.
  • Accepted one of the most creative wedding invitations I’ve seen in awhile. It was in the form of a resignation letter. “We the undersigned hereby tender our resignations from single life.”
  • Met two people I’ve only spoken to via email thus far. It was great. Sometimes, you go ‘What if they’re totally boring or obnoxious? What if they think I’m totally boring or obnoxious?” It couldn’t have turned out better.
  • Watched Superman. I brought my folks. Though I don’t hold it against her, I do wish Mom had a better response than “He’s very handsome.” And that grin. Sigh.
  • Thought about taking up cooking. And salsa. What the fuck’s wrong with me?
  • Thought (again) about buying a car.
  • Made someone promise to have an operation.
  • Saw a taxi with a beautiful name on it. Almost all taxis in Malaysia have the name of the driver and/or owner on the door. This one said Khamis bin Khaled. ‘Khamis’ in Malay means ‘Thursday.’
  • Bought a book on Chicago for ten ringgit. (that’s slightly more than USD2.50). It’s in black and white and the photos look very old but it’s cute. It has a lot of schematics in it and I hope to be able to visit these places someday.
  • Got a call from my first girlfriend’s elder sister. She told me to come by one Saturday cos “We all gather for dinner and Mom would love to see you.” It was very, very sweet but I probably won’t. I miss them too but I think some more time needs to pass in her marriage. But I think it’s only a matter of time. They’re beautiful people, and I can’t think they’d only be around as memories.
  • Had dinner with a wonderful couple I just met. When I say ‘just met’, I mean ‘just got to know.’ We met more than four months ago. Sometimes people just click. They have three lovely children. We had dinner in their home after they put their kids to bed. The wife made chicken curry, rice, mixed vegetable and we had chocolate moist cake after.
  • Had a friend tell me she’s a lesbian. I found it a relief since I don’t know anyone in my gender that would be good for her.
  • Found out Nelly Furtado is openly bisexual. I found it a relief since I’ve always thought of her that way. In an age of piracy and downloaded music, I have always bought original Nelly Furtado music.
  • Missed my blog friends, but been afraid of my blog. I don’t know why. It’s a nice place, and it’s found its voice. Maybe the blog itself is a friend and I felt guilty I’ve neglected it too long and I didn't want to face it. Even as I write this, I don’t know if everyone has given up on it. Are you guys still out there?
  • Realised that in Malaysia, nobody changes their surname after marriage. I always knew that, but never thought much of it till I thought about all the hyphenated names I’ve seen in countries like the US or the UK. Smith-Ramirez. Parker-Bowles. Folke-Wittes.
  • Been told by an ex-colleague who’s returned to my office that I’d changed. “You seemed so angry when I met you. Now you’re calmer.” He doesn’t actually know me very well, and I never knew he noticed me or that I appeared that angry. I don’t even know if should be happy about what he said, but I am.
  • Met a new girl who joined that shares my family name. I told her to smile because “That is what our kind does.” She thinks I’m a fucking weirdo, but has humoured me. I said to her the other day “Let me see it” and she stopped typing, turned to face me in her chair, and smiled.

I’m back. I’m sorry I missed everyone’s comments and didn’t get round to replying them. Life just happened. But I’m back.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The 100th post

I’m writing this at work, which I’m fairly certain violates some clause of my employment contract.

Thing is, I’m not sure if I’ll get the chance to write again before I travel. I’ll be away all next week but I’d been wanting to post some new material so now’s a good a time as any. One last thing on that travel bit – prolly no Internet access where I’m staying so please forgive me if I don’t reply your comments as quickly.


For a while now, I’ve been wanting to put more energy into my writing. Through a friend, I was recently introduced to an informal group of people who want to put out books and comics. Not all of them want to write, they just want be involved in something creative (one is a lawyer who’s offered to do up our contracts if any one of us gets offered a publishing deal).

It’s been really good though. I had initial fears it was going to be some pretentious book club but it’s actually been like a gym for writing. Well, actually it’s a cross between a gym and a lab. We get a simple assignment, we do it on the spot, and it’s amazing some of the stuff comes out.
I’m going to preview some of these exercises (and their results) from time to time for two reasons:
  • I think they send your head to all sorts of interesting places. This was important for me cos I was so focused on improving the writing I totally ignored improving the thinking.
  • I want to bring others along for the ride. More to the point, I want to see where you guys go with this. Don’t try and write. Don’t try and be a writer. You don’t have to. Just tell us a story.

Anyway, below is the experiment, and the result (my result anyway).
I’ll see you guys when I get back.

Experiment: One Syllable Rhythms.
Tell a story in words of one syllable.


Oh shit. It broke and now I’m dead.
What do I do?
I know.
The pill.
Doh! Too late!
Chill, Jen, Chill.
Mom will know.
Mom went through this last year.
Mom will help cos mom knows.
Mom will help.

Or Dad will know.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Someone to watch over me

Yesterday evening, a thunderstorm broke out in my part of town.
It wasn’t particularly heavy, and everyone reacted in the usual manner – irritation at having to endure the gridlock, and having to revise dinner plans.

What actually happened was in three different spots, all less than 50 metres from my office, trees well past their first century were uprooted. One of these spots is where I parked my car.

I imagine it takes quite a force to rip a tree with a trunk roughly 5 feet in diameter from the ground. And now that the shock has passed, it strikes me as odd that such a force didn’t suck the cars off the tarmac as well. I got to the car park and I saw my colleague looking like a tree fell on his car.

“You see your car?”
“Better get in there.”
“Where’s yours?”
“Under the tree.”

The radius of the damage was wide enough to do two things: Cover half the car park (it was a big tree) and force me to run a full circle to get around the roots and into the parking lot. That brief sprint was the longest five seconds of my life.

My car was covered in leaves and a long branch had fallen across the hood.
I don’t remember rushing up to the car, but I must have because I was circling it and patting it down like a burning child.

Four cars were crushed beyond repair.
The tree missed my car by less than two feet.

I’m not the religious sort, but I thanked God for saving my car.
A car which over the weekend, I had contemplated selling.
A car which I often park in very spot the tree was uprooted to save it from baking in the sun.
My folks are fairly devout Buddhists. I’m not, but I lit some jos sticks as soon as I got home. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This morning, the church gates were closed.
The tree has been cut into sections but it’ll take another day or two to clear it.
The only person I saw was the pastor surveying the damage.
I’m wondering: where is his car?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Giving credit

Every year, I make the same call to my credit card company.

“How may I help you sir?”

“I’m looking at my latest statement and there’s a charge there marked ‘Fees’.”

“That’s our annual fee charge, sir.”

“Can I ask you to waive that fee?”

“We don’t have that policy, sir.”

“Every other credit card company has a ‘free for life’ policy.”

“We don’t have that policy, sir.”

“If you check my record, you’ll see I’ve been a customer for quite a while.”

“Just a moment, sir…Yes, sir. Going on five years now.”

“Wouldn’t that warrant you guys waiving the fee?”

“We don’t have that policy, sir”

“If you check my record, you will find the following: A customer that’s never been late on a payment; A customer who pays in full every time; A customer who’s never once busted his credit limit. I’d think a credit card company would be pleased to have a customer like that. In fact, considering the cost of new member acquisition, waiving your annual fee seems like a laughable price to keep a good customer.”

“We don’t have that policy, sir.”

“(Sigh) Well, look at the points I’ve racked up over the years. YEARS. Don’t you guys have some ‘points in exchange for annual fee’ thing? Other card companies do!”

“We don’t have that policy either, sir.”

I’ve done this so many times, this scenario runs through my head automatically. Two things are predictable, their responses and my ultimate exasperation.

So, yesterday, I dialed the number and took a deeeep breath.

“How may I help you sir?”

“I’m looking at my latest statement and there’s a charge there marked ‘Fees’.”

“Let’s see if we can get that waived for you. Just a moment, sir…Yes, there you go. Just deduct that amount from your payment this month. Anything else I can do for you?”

Well, fuck me dead.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Previously, on Two In The Bush

Firstly, quick thanks and apologies to several people who dropped by during my prolonged absence. I wasn’t ignoring anyone, honest. I’ve just been in a bad place these past two months. Sooner or later, everyone catches a bad stretch, and I’m no exception.

Sometime between the 2nd and 3rd chapters of ‘3 Eroticas,’ I hurt my back. After that, a whole lotta things took a nose-dive:

I couldn’t run. Running is something I never knew I’d come to love, and when I can’t run, it’s upsetting. I missed the adrenaline highs that followed, the sweet ache in my legs that reminded me I did something physical. I only started running again two weeks ago and even then, only once a week. My stamina has suffered, but I’ll get there. First lay down the routine, then aim to improve.

I couldn’t write. Actually, I could. The sick irony of it was I could only write at work. I couldn’t stay in any one position more than half an hour (with the exception of lying down, which I could only do at home). All I wanted to do was finish my work and go home. Thing is, I kept interrupting myself. I had to get up from my desk constantly. The vicious cycle ate at me and some days I felt like screaming. By the time I got home, I was too tired to do anything. This is actually the first piece of writing I’ve done in weeks that isn’t part of my job.

And when I got better, things got worse. No more pain, but then half a dozen colleagues left in about 4 months, 3 of them writers. My work load tripled, and the agency suddenly decided to start pitching for more business. I stayed past 10 almost every day and I worked weekends.

Then my Mac crashed. I wrote this post from my Dad’s PC.

So there you have it. It’s not over yet, the storm. But it's dying down.

To the people I love, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be distant. You know everything that’s happened here cos I told you already. I want to get back back to you. But I had to get back to me first.

To the regulars, thanks. Like I said at the beginning of the post, I wasn’t ignoring anyone. Indeed, I only read the new comments a few days ago. I’m also sorry I haven’t been by. If I’ve missed something special, please feel free to cut and paste some belated good vibes from The Box (see below). I hope to post some new material in the next few weeks. I’ve also been wanting to preview an experiment on the blog for a long time, but I was worried not everyone might like it. But this is true of everything I’ve done anyway. It’s time to stop trying to think 30 moves ahead and just trust you guys.

To the Universe. So, it’s like that huh? Fine. I’m still standing. C’mon. Let’s go.

Good Vibes Smorgasbord (cut and paste where appropriate)



“Hang in there ok?”

“Ew, gross.”

“Oh. My. God.”

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sign here please

My signature was born when I was about 10.

I used to carry around a sketchbook filled with cartoons of characters called The Wuppets, inspired by a range of toys they gave away with meals at the A&W drive-through. Actually, ‘toys’ is a pretty generous term. The Wuppets were just balls of wool with eyes glued on. Y’know, the kind for making soft toys you which can buy in bulk, that roll when you shake them. They had big hobbit-like feet, flat pieces of leather with double-sided tape that you could use to stick them – quite permanently – on car dashboards.

I drew pages and pages of Wuppet cartoons. No dialogue, just the Wuppets doing stuff. The only thing I wrote were the titles: The Wuppets At The Haunted House! Wuppets Go To Space! Looking back, they were prolly the height of my artistic talent. They were easy to draw (just a circle, two eyes and feet) and to this date, I haven’t drawn anything else as consistently well. Again, ‘well’ is a generous term. More accurately, my Wuppets are the drawings that have turned out closest to what I imagined them to be.

Anyway, at some point, I felt proud (or was it possessive?) enough about them to want to exert some ownership. So I decided to invent a signature.
I asked my dad to show me how he signed his name. The signature he showed me was actually the ‘initials’ version and it left a deep impression on me.
Maybe it was the way he did it, that looping of the pen that seemed so much like a needle with ink as thread. A few deft swirls of the wrist and a symbol magically appeared. A kind of logo that said ‘Dad.’ Or perhaps it was the way he signed a few of them in a row, each repeated with equal precision, like it was a stamp.
Either way, from that moment on, my concept of signatures was as pictures instead of words. Drawing instead of writing.

And my drawing sucked.

To my 10-year old self, crafting a signature was a big thing. A this-is-how-people-are-gonna-remember-you-for-the-rest-of-your-life-so-you-better-not-suck thing. After all, it would bear my name – and a name is the most public, yet personal thing a person can have. Best to go slow.

So via this blend of childish insecurity and a premature sense of drama, my first signature was…my Dad’s.

I began signing the Wuppets with my Dad’s initials and pretty soon it was everywhere. My books, my pencil box, every where. From time to time, Oh, I tried working on my own signature, but it just never seemed to match up to Dad’s. Besides, nothing was wrong with the one I was using. A few people had even said it was cool. And so I let it be.

Then two things happened.

Thing #1: Dad started letting my brother and I read his comics. Maybe they were too dark for us (Twilight Zone, Tales From The Crypt, Conan) or maybe he didn’t have the time to dig them out of the boxes before then. Either way, it was an upgrade in our privileges. A promotion.
Then I started noticing a lot of them had a signature on the cover. It was stylish and elaborate. Translation: I couldn’t make out the fucking thing.
So I asked Dad.
He said the signature read ‘Goya.’
“Yes. Goya is an artist from the 18th Century. “
“Why is his name on your comics?”
“It’s just someone I admired.”

Thing #2: They’d given us forms for class trips before, but the one to Cameron Highlands was the first one requiring the students to sign as well. Dad had already signed for me to go, but I left the ‘student’s signature’ portion blank. Out of habit, I almost signed my Wuppets signature, but stopped when it hit me that it wasn’t mine. Just someone I admired.

So that night, out of necessity, I drew my own signature. I had no time to try out different versions and because my teacher admonished us to ‘always sign the same way’ I didn’t deviate from that initial scrawl.
When I made my first passport, the design was finalised. It traced the ungainly loops and a laminate was placed over it, sealing it.
The one I use on cheques and credit card bills today is a direct descendant.
All who have seen it says it bears very little resemblance to my name.
That’s understandable.
After all, it was done in a rush.
And I’ve never been much of an artist anyway.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

3 Eroticas: The Alley

In my defense:
It was dark.
I couldn’t hear anything.
It’s not like I followed them.

So I can’t really tell it the way it happened.
I’m going to tell it the way I remembered it.

I was in bed, but not sleeping. I heard a voice - suddenly close - and I got up to look out my window. I banged my head against the glass, which somehow didn’t make them turn. Or maybe they turned in that 7 seconds I’d retreated to say fuck and rub my forehead.

I peeked through the blinds searching the alley below, behind my apartment.
That’s when I saw him kiss her. They kissed a lot. They kissed like they liked kissing. They broke every now and again, maybe for air, maybe to whisper something. Or maybe he just liked looking at her.

He pushed up her top – a long sleeved something with a hood – and fed from her. Just on one side. I wonder: if the air around you is a sharp four degrees, does a mouth on you feel hot? He knelt to kiss her stomach and she stroked his hair slowly, like you would a child. Then she turned round and undid her jeans.

He entered her but after he did, he didn’t move. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t expect that – him not moving. Him just staying there. Then she turned round and stepped out of her jeans like you step out of sneakers - one foot then the other and the sneakers staying in that same position like the wearer evaporated mid-stride.
I always thought it was something people did only in movies, fuck against the wall like that. I thought it was something directors did to show you how steamy and raw the sex was. You know, the girl’s ankles hooked around the guy’s ass as he thrust.
Not here. There wasn’t really a wall. Just a wooden fence with the slats real close together so there weren’t any gaps.

I don’t know if she called out towards the end. I couldn’t hear. There was the window. There was also the blood roaring in my ears, my scalp burning. When he finished, he let her down and as soon as her feet touched ground everything became rushed and furtive. She wriggled back into her jeans; they both looked around to see if anyone saw (after, but not during – weird); he motioned for her to hurry up.

If I close my eyes, I can still see him kneel.
I can still see him worship her with his lips.
And how he liked looking at her.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

3 Eroticas: The Movie

Ok, rewind.

Coupla years ago, a few of us at the magazine decided to watch a hardcore porn movie together. To this day, I can't recall why we thought it was a good idea. Or why we felt like it was like any other outing like dinner or company paintball.

Ok, fast-forward.

We’d just finished dinner at SS’s place and she was breaking out the alcohol. I don’t think she did it to make us braver or more relaxed or anything. Any gathering with SS had alcohol as a prerequisite (which is why I rarely attended). There wasn’t any preamble or small talk to lead up to the movie. SS just asked ‘So, shall we start?’
Enthusiastic nods all round, check.
Hardcore porn flick on VCD (DVD hadn’t come into vogue yet), check.
Dimmed lights? Check.

Ok, press play.

The movie was Tarzan X, with Rocco Siffredi playing Tarzan. I think you can guess the plot. Minutes later, Tarzan’s already making the two-backed chimpanzee with Jane. Personally, the whole making-chimp-sounds-while-fucking was a mood breaker. And him prodding around and preening Jane? Dude.
But I digress. Our little party had bigger problems.

The guys for one thing, all started looking around nervously for cushions. The men were definitely not as cool about this as we thought we were. I also noticed the parts the guys tended to look away or shift in their seats during the scenes where Tarzan was going down on Jane (I’m sorry to put it so indelicately, but I’m trying to get through this). They just had trouble dealing. One guy took to looking at magazines.
But the ladies. Well.

Ok, pause.

Rocco Siffredi doesn’t have a penis. I don’t mean he’s an amputee or anything. But a penis to me needs to at least look the part. Fit certain dimensions.
Rocco Siffredi has a baby’s arm where his ‘nads should be. As it turns out, the magazine I worked for ran an article on porn legends (‘The Monsters of Cock’) and Rocco comes in at 10-full inches (thankfully, no picture – to scale or otherwise).

And when he unleashed his caveman’s club, the girls let out this collective moan.

Ok, resume.

So. After about half an hour of seeing Rocco get with the monkey love, we see the tribe divide itself:
Fellatio shots: The girls lean forward, mouths slightly open. The guys find sudden fascination with floor / imaginary lint on clothes / old copies of Cosmo lying about.
Full-out-screaming fuck shots: The girls get closer together, occasionally whispering. The guys suddenly need to go the toilet, or out on the balcony for a smoke.
Money shots: The girls watch like it a baptism. The guys actually flinch like they were watching a dog getting fixed.

Ok, eject.

I think somewhere around the 40-minute mark, the guys were desperate for a way out. Everyone else was in some private psychological hell. So FB – the guy who brought the movie – said in a bored tone that wasn’t fooling anyone, “I’m bored. Maybe we should go to the mamak.” It was the opening we needed. We practically leapt from the couch (which had become like an island of sexual conservatism since it all began) and grabbed keys, sneakers, anything to get the hell out.

The girls were a bit surprised at first, but they’d prolly had enough as well (a girlfriend later told me girls are less prone to repeat viewings of porn cos ‘it’s all the same moves.’)

We all went to the mamak and by the time drinks arrived, we were ourselves again.
By ‘we’ I mean the guys. We slipped back into our usual macho bullshit (‘Seen better / Girl’s tits looked fake’).
But the girls were changed. They were smiling and distracted and all touchy-feely. Over this thing that was supposed to be the pissing ground of (straight) men, the women had bonded. I think as guys we’re definitely missing something valuable here. Something inherently different in the support of a female network. Something good.

Ok, stop.

Wait, rewind.

Later, FB called each of us to ask if we’d taken his Tarzan X VCD by accident.
Everyone said no.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

3 Eroticas: The Club

In the end, it was a girl who asked for us.

We had four guys – me included – and none of us had the stones to go and just ask where the nearest strip club was. FC – always brave and impulsive- asked a coupla guys standing outside a pub smoking. A 15-minute walk later, we were paying the cover charge.

The club was actually pretty nice, one of those modern retro type setups. Whoever commissioned the work had some taste. The girls danced on a stage that was lit from the bottom, kinda like a glowing runway. We bought a jug of beer and sat down.

Three girls came out, but I only remember one.
I remember her because she looked nice.

I don’t mean hot, though she was definitely that. Her body wasn’t gym-toned. It was more curvy. And I don’t know why, but it surprised me that her breasts were real. So yeah, she was hot. But that’s not what I meant.
I remember her cos she was nice.
Now I’m sure she’s met every single guy you can think of, knows every angle that can be played, so I’m not implying Julia Roberts-in-Pretty-Woman-heart-of-gold type stuff.

I meant that she didn’t seem like she wanted to strip for you. You felt more like she wanted to talk to you first. That if you wanted to, she’d pack up and meet you downstairs for coffee. Just give her 10 minutes ok? Oh my God, you like Alice Sebold too? That’s awesome!

There was this one guy, whom she straddled – yup, beautiful girl in a thong, right on your lap – who was completely in love with her. She used her hands, but not like you see in the movies. She swept back his hair, held his face. She didn’t turn round and reverse-cowboy him, or grind her hips like some Missy Elliot video.
She was a girlfriend.
And when she lifted herself off, I’ll bet you it felt like she was just going to the ladies. Or to get a drink. “I’m gonna come back ok? Just wait for me.”

And then she was in front of me.

Ever been to a show where the person on stage goes ‘I need a volunteer’ and then their eyes lock on you? That’s how it felt like. Her eyes volunteered me. She knelt on that runway with her back facing me. As she unhooked her bra, she turned to look at me and it felt like the most private thing in the world. Like third-base private. Like a girl showing herself to you for the first time private. She raised herself on her knees. Then the thong came down.

She knelt down a girl, but stood up a woman. Walking towards me as naked as birth, she then sat down on the edge of the stage where I was. She inched forward and all my seen-one-seen-em-all cover was blown away. All this girl did was move six inches closer and I turned into a little boy.

Then a wad of blue paper hit her face.

“I give you money! You fuck my friend!”

Some. Complete. ASSHOLE was getting in her face and making thrusting motions with his hips. He moved into our space for like, a second and that was it. We didn’t see him anymore. Two guards appeared from thin air or hyperspace or threw off their invisibility cloaks or whatever (cos they sure as fuck weren’t there before) and just yanked him out.

After that, we were so embarrassed we left.

She’d moved on.
She sat with her legs wide, one hand on the customer’s shoulder to steady herself, the other to sweep back her own red hair behind her left ear.
The woman she was sitting on glanced at me for a moment before the stripper gently turned her face back towards her.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Jobs I’ve had

Before we begin, a special message to Wandernut. Two things, babe:
  • Thanks. For saving me. I wanted to post something but I didn’t know what to write about. Your tag saved me from having to be original.
  • Sorry. I’m sure you at least expected me to be interesting. I tried. I’m sorry.

Accounts Clerk / Data Entry Clerk / Filing Monkey

My first job.
400 bucks felt so big.
Having my own money felt so big.
I felt mature and responsible (a feeling which would never be recaptured in any other job since).
I had an EPF number (social security to you guys outside Malaysia).
I made friends with people I didn’t go to school with.
I discovered how hard it was to earn a decent wage.
I spent everything.
I admired my folks.
I learnt about politics and how I was crap at it.
I felt useful.

‘Good English’-speaking Asian
This was at my Uni.
It was a short-lived, but well-meaning attempt to help ‘International’ (read ‘Asian’) students improve their spoken English for presentations. You got paid 10 bucks, and you spent a full day with these students and helped them with their oral skills (leave it). It was shitty pay for a reason – you weren’t supposed to profit from it. You were supposed to help people.
I took two Koreans, an Indonesian and a Hong Kong girl to a comic store named The Minotaur. I bought a comic and we went to a coffee place. I made them act out the scenes like a sketch. They were so good. I spent 15 bucks all in.
They still got laughed at in presentations but they remembered my name.
For one of the very few times in my life, I felt like a good person.
I also knew I was a crap teacher.

Intern, then part-time Marketing Exec in a software firm
I got a free course in programming from a company that was hardcore about the Internet when it was young. They wrote ‘serious’ software. I’m not talking puny consumer version Windows. I’m talking AS/400 apps. I felt so hardcore.
I met Lou Gerstner, then CEO of IBM. He introduced himself as “Lou Gerstner, CEO, IBM.” I replied “(my name). Brilliant marketing student.” He laughed and shook my hand. I felt something break.
I was asked my opinion. Really asked.
I ogled my first colleague, an older woman.
I got a good grade for my internship. I told my lecturer there was some mistake and forced her to show me the test score breakdowns.
I was offered a full-time job. “Stay here. Stay with us. We’ll sort out the work permit stuff.”
I turned it down. Partially cos exciting things were happening in Malaysia. But also because everything I loved was there – my family, my brother, and a girl who would stay with me another 6 years.
I felt like I could do anything.

Internet kitchen sink
I got my first name card. It said ‘content development.’ It started as a mix of writing and basic programming for the website. It quickly ballooned into project management (you had to or you died) and sometimes salesman (you had to our nothing got sold).
I learnt Photoshop, Illustrator, QuarkXpress.
The dot com bubble burst and we were one of those hit.
I told myself I’d try everything I wanted before age 30, with the theory something would eventually stick.
I felt I’d left with more than when I arrived. More of what, I don’t know.

Tabloid journalist / senior busybody
I wrote for a men’s magazine I liked as a reader. Actually, I worked for very watered-down local edition it. But hey, it was all new to me, and therefore fun.
I got a lot of free stuff. Free drinks, advance screenings to movies, and a new expensive car to test-drive every two weeks.
I got to meet interesting people – a lady who trained the tigers on Gladiator, I interviewed a medical examiner and spent some time in a morgue, and Malaysia’s only F1 driver. And I interviewed Shaggy.
I developed ambition, and I got bored quickly.
Towards the end I had savage disagreements with my editor – a moron with a work permit. I learnt that management’s job in general is to run the company, not attend to the needs of individual employees. It’s the right way to think. It’s imperfect, but more efficient in the long-run. It’s also hard to see that when you’re an employee.
I felt like I’d sold myself short on this one. And without arrogance, I say this: they didn’t deserve me.

After months of writing marketing plans, contracts, number-crunching and soul-searching I started a local edition of a leading movie magazine from the UK. I began the venture with a colleague at my old magazine job.
With a loan, I rented a small office, bought some tables, a coupla computers, and hired a friend to work for me.
I went out and saw advertisers and things were looking positive.
And then my partner asked for a larger slice of the company or he’d withhold the money he was supposed to bring in. I told him the law prohibited me giving over more shares without more capital. In any case, it was a larger slice of nothing at this point.
He went crazy and it went spectacularly to hell. I burned every cent I had and then some to buy him out. There was no other choice. I needed to control the situation and I didn’t want him a part of it.
In the next few months, I let two employees go, including my good friend who initially refused to take my money, mailing me back my cheque with a note saying “I believe in you. Make it work.”
But I couldn’t.
And I did try. I used the last of my lease to make sales calls. I re-wrote my business plan to allow another publisher to take control of my business in return for a job and marketing input. In the end, I just ran out of money.
I sold what I could, closed the office and decided to get a job.
I felt like a failure.
Actually, it was worse than that. I felt like a fuck-up.
After that I made a list every day. At the top, I wrote “I am still standing.”
It’s 4 years later and I’m writing this from the Mac I bought for the business.
And I’m doing ok.

Sitcom scriptwriter
I got asked by a friend. I had no idea how but I really wanted to try it.
The pay wasn’t very good, but I learnt to think of jobs in terms of energy spent, not just money earned. And for the energy spent, it was actually ok.
I sold two scripts, none of which I saw after they’d been filmed.
I learnt how to write dialogue.
I discovered I could be funny on paper, if not in person.
I felt like writing had become a good friend. It fed my tummy, and made me feel good about myself. And up until now, I hadn’t given it the simple respect that it deserved.
I am now grateful I’m a writer.

Copywriter, three different places now
I kinda fell into this. Stumbled, more like.
In the same week:
  • A friend told me to try copywriting. I thought it was about patent law.
  • I bumped into a Creative Director of an ad agency about 10 mins from my current office. It was his last day so he couldn’t give me a job. But he did give me the name of the guy replacing him. I called up and asked for an interview.
  • I got a call to come into the agency. I chucked in my job. I went home to put together a very, very amateurish portfolio during the night.
  • I went for the interview. I got the job.
I realised the value of taking a chance on what you want.
And how important it is for someone to take a chance on you.
Copywriting was where I stopped having just a job and started my career.
I’ve also swung wildly between feeling I have a gift and feeling I’m a total imposter.
The last two years, I’ve kind of come to terms with my profession, which is to sell things with words, not always truthful.
I’ve also come to terms with my craft. Which is actually a kind of magic.
More importantly, I know the difference between the two.
The best piece of advice I ever got was “Don’t try and be a writer. Just write.”
I feel I’m still learning.
I don’t want to be in advertising long-term. My personality doesn’t match it (I’m a loner by nature) and I don’t feel compelled to be as ‘good’ (whatever that is) as you need to be to ‘make it’ (whatever that is).

But writing. That I can do forever.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The anti-Lent

Well, thank Cuh-rist I'm not religious so I don't gotta give nothing up.
Some of my habits have not only lived with me for years, they’ve spawned children:
  • Licking the edge of the cup when there's spillage. Like foam from my latte. Several friends have called it disgusting, but I've noticed guys more so than girls.
  • Untangling co-workers' telephone cords. Which as my friend rightly put, "would actually be a much appreciated gesture if it didn't come with that fucking judgmental look on your face."
  • Pulling elevator pranks. One of my favourites:
Me: What floor?
Victim: 9 please.
Me: (presses said floor) Sorry, that floor is already taken.
  • Saying 'Coooodie!' for no good reason. It's actually a permutation of my dog's name, Cuddles. How did it get from Cuddles to Coooodie? Fuck if I know.
  • Making people say 'the' client. In my line of work, as in many others, the customer is all-powerful. But I've yet to work in a trade that raises them to such God-like status by dropping the 'The.' Colleagues write job briefs using sentences like ‘Client would like an alternative headline.’ It's even more grating in conversation: "But Client only has 80,000 to spend…" I've gotten (I admit, unreasonably) stubborn on this point and sometimes won't entertain revision requests unless they say 'the' client. And stop using an upper case 'C.'
  • Some light self-mutilation. It's like how some people can't leave loose thread on jackets alone. I see a strip of skin, barely a millimeter wide and I'll tug it until it comes off, leaving a red gash. I do this for cuticles n my fingers and dry lips. Then I suck the blood.
  • Looking at the spot where my big dog went to sleep for the last time. If I came home one day and find him there, I'd just hug him. I wouldn't even ask if he was real or how he came back. Ray, we miss you so much.
  • Worrying if my car's locked. I always end up walking back and jiggling the handle.
  • Worrying if I've flushed.
  • Speaking in point form. Like so:
I can't meet you this evening cos:
a) I have a dentist's appointment
b) You're the reason I HAVE a dentist's appointment
c) Bloody hell, if I knew sucker-punching people with the base of a nightstand lamp was your idea of 'hot' I wouldna slept with you in the first place. I mean dayum girl.
  • Saying ‘yes’ to Mom’s coffee. In fact, lotsa times I come home from coffee with a friend or colleague and my mom goes ‘Would you like some coffee?’ It’s bad for me. It’s gonna make me piss like a racehorse. I’ve had 4 cups today already. And coffee stains teeth. Yes, Mom.
  • Stockpiling name cards. I’m not one of those ‘let’s do lunch’ people. Well, to be specific, I’m not one of those say-let’s-do-lunch-but-I-know-I’ll-never-call-you people. If I say I’ll call you, you’ll get a call practically within the week. Also, any of my good friends will tell you – I’m horrible with social situations and about as warm and charming as a week-old sushi – so it’s not as if I call people up just to keep up the acquaintance. At the same time, I don’t even have the good habit of bringing my own cards out. I always change jobs with 2 full boxes of fresh cards that end up as bookmarks and reminder notes.
  • Calling people 'babe.' This is regardless of gender. I have no idea what the guys think. This week, one of my friends wrote me an email to say ‘Is it ok if you stop calling me babe?’ I wrote back saying ‘Babe, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know it bothered you. I won’t do it again. Listen babe, I gotta go. I’ll write you later k?’ Sigh.

To those of you giving up stuff for Lent, I’ve weaved some magic into this post so reading this automatically sends good vibes your way. Good on you, babe.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

3 technologies: Replication

It took just 80 hours for the first Wu-Drexler Replicator to replicate 60 tonnes of food.
Though slow by today’s standards, it was in 80-hour shifts stretched over 5 years that famine in Africa was eradicated. Not just controlled, but extinguished.

Poverty soon followed as replicators generated clothing, housing, water, medicines - all the basic necessities needed to repair broken countries. India, the world’s sixth richest nation and third largest producer of replicator machines, solved the social problems that have been until now, a plague with no cure. China and Eastern Europe have all but banished hard-core poverty.

Construction and manufacturing became largely unmanned operations. Workers in all sorts of industries – automotive, textile, electronics, anything with humans on the assembly line – were retrenched en masse. Many joked bitterly how the only thing replicators couldn’t create were new jobs. Money markets were turned inside out since no country, no economy could charge premiums for resources that could be replicated on demand. After the shakeout, the only resource with any sustainable value was information.
As consumer versions of replicators hit the market, customers became their own manufacturers. Starbucks, Lego, K-Mart all became information brokers and customers paid a monthly subscription to download new blueprints/designs/recipes for everything from your soy latte to lingerie. Larger items like cars had to be picked up but waiting periods became a thing of the past. There wasn’t a waiting list, just a line. Postal Services expanded their businesses to include replication of goods with large warehouses to replicate orders. Just show your receipt, and your post office would replicate you your new SUV.
Farming became more a matter of how well your crops were designed. Since there was no growing involved, farmers' core business became licensing their crop designs to supermarkets and local grocery stores.

What no one predicted was that infinite supply created its own infinite demand. Since luxury accessories (diamonds, fashion) had no more value, travel became the ultimate prestige symbol. Travel corporations and even some tourism boards replicated their own ‘copies’ of Paris, Toyko and other tourist destinations. In many cases, the replication projects caused changes in geography which in turn created weather anomalies (floods, snow, hurricanes). Many governments now closely regulate real-estate replication with updated zoning laws. Still, satellite surveys show global land mass has grown 11% over the past three decades proving that enforcement has been lax.
Though good housing is no longer an issue, land is. In 2163, the United Nations launched the Earth 2 initiative, a feasibility study to replicate a smaller version of our planet to anticipate the problems of accelerated urban sprawl.

Despite its growing pains, the planet for the most part considered replicator technology to be a good thing. Manufacturing costs fell and everyone had a car and a house. Economies became self-sufficient and though exports dwindled, the social benefits far outweighed the loss in GDP.

Some resources remain scarce. By coincidence, replicator physics also proved the scientific existence of the soul, which is why livestock and fishing remain the only industries to survive ‘replicator economics.’ Early attempts at using replication to resurrect dead life forms, including people, quickly met with failure (much to the relief of the funeral industry). To this day, cats – having no souls – remain the only exception.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

3 technologies: Miniaturisation

It began as a manufacturing process for microchips.
Reduce the empty space between atoms and materials became tighter, stronger, smaller. Smaller components led to smaller machines, less resources consumed, less pollution.
The technology became an ideology:
More power, less waste.
And because the physics arrived before the philosophy, it was a unique environmental cause: you didn’t need to do (or believe) anything new to save the planet.
Small became the new big.

But the real tipping point was the mice. From the moment organic matter could be reduced to nano-scale – intact – there was no turning back. Four decades of animal testing before the first human trials, and now you can fit 50 human beings on a full stop.
In between then, we saw the pet industry bloom with everyone having hamster-sized dogs and cats that slept on computer monitors or work desks.
Animal protection agencies however found themselves fighting a new kind of black market – puppy-sized gorillas, cheetahs, pandas – which was worryingly easy to smuggle. But the trend died quickly. Smugglers focused on the benefits of shrinking the animals, and neglected the problems that came with their new size. Some animals just didn’t adapt well. The Great White Shark population has been effectively decimated after a short-lived but destructive period when poachers sold them as aquarium fish and they kept dying because of claustrophobia and stress.

Roughly a century after miniaturisation was perfected, the world’s full-sized population began to fall steadily as people began to migrate from the full-scale world – the ‘Big Bad’ - to build new lives in the Microverse: A nano-scale version of our world, our history, our species.

The first wave of pioneers had it rough.
Adaptation to micro-life was a steep, deadly learning curve.
  • Every little movement from the Macroverse (like walking) was magnified into earthquake-strength tremors. Steady rain brought tsunamis. Construction had to be rethought completely.
  • Crops grew differently in the Micro-verse. The proportions for everything from fertilizer to watering had to be rediscovered. Agriculture returned to its infancy.
  • Man was not the dominant species in the Microverse. Ants, earthworms, all caused unprecedented destruction of property and death. For the first time, man had to seriously think of defense on a near planetary scale. All those decades of planning for alien invasion, but not one scenario for giant termites.

In the end, the Microverse population, unable to cope with high human cost of adaptation (1.3 million lives lost in the first year alone) and desperate for a solution, decided to steal. They hijacked supermarkets for processed food, hospitals for medical supplies and transport vehicles from anywhere they could find. They came, they took what they could, and retreated back into the Microverse.

The UN, unable to effectively locate the Microverse population, passed a Security Council resolution banning miniaturisation. Thousands of miniaturisation substations across the globe were taken offline and disassembled over the next 15 years. Human rights groups criticised the UN for effectively committing genocide by choking off the Microverse’s only real supply-point: the world they so wanted to leave behind.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

3 technologies: Teleportation

Looking back, everything that happened after we perfected teleporting was like the technology itself.

Here one minute, gone the next.

The auto industry, shipping, air travel - all disappeared overnight. Pollution levels dropped like a rock and the air changed (nobody has smelled actual car exhaust for 53 years, except from simulators at some museums, and even then some of the old timers who once owned a car or two complained it ‘smelled fake’).

Some things stayed the same. People still used the word ‘shipped’ even though nobody’s sent anything by sea for close to 70 years. Too slow and risky even in its heyday, nobody gets on a boat now unless it’s to race. Planes - like cars - turned into a purely recreational thing. Bored ex-aviators flip the autopilot and read a magazine as rich eccentrics look out the window for about an hour (some of the more expensive tours have been known to run to about 90 minutes).

Oil companies were the hardest hit. Demand evaporated and suddenly you couldn’t give crude away if it came with the rig that drilled it. The energy crisis remains however, and during the first decade of the newly perfected telepod’s entry into our lives, state-wide blackouts were common, and riots became a global phenomenon.

The biggest winners? Courier companies. The ‘Big Four’ became sponsors of teleportation infrastructure in almost every major city across the globe. Offering federal governments to pick up most of the tab for building telepod stations meant that courier companies took over the role of public transport and 70% of all exports giving them enormous political influence. 1 out of 3 new tax hikes directly benefit the Big Four.

The world’s psyche changed too. Teleporting warped forever our perception of speed - and our patience. People quickly adapted to instant travel, instant delivery, and ‘not fast enough’ took on a whole new level of dissatisfaction. ‘Port rage’ – telepod services interrupted, late delivery of furniture or pizza more than 3 seconds past the advertised time - affects at least 1 in every 8 people in the U.S. And with teleporting eliminating messengers, bad news was taken out on whoever was present: colleagues, bystanders, but more often family.

Tele-theft has made people obsessive about protection. Magnetic shields are now standard in everything from houses to clutch purses, lest valuables be ’ported away by tele-thieves. The average household’s security system is closely patterned after the average prison where inmate ‘port outs’ are occasionally a problem.

Amidst all this, a strange new trend is emerging. Teens, ever eager to rebel, are beginning to walk – yes, walk - to school. Oddly enough, it’s the more developed cities with good telepod infrastructure where the phenomenon is most rampant. Tardiness ( but strangely not truancy) is up to record levels. These teens don’t want to skip class, they just don’t want to arrive on time. Unconfirmed reports tell of groups of teens getting together on weekends to run as far as 500 meters. 13 to 16-year olds are now going deep retro, restoring old mountain bikes and even skateboards.

It is a movement, in every sense of the word.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The tribe has spoken

I went to public school (or as we call it, government school). My main problem with school was that it was dull. As a rule, everything was exam-oriented and you passed by remembering answers, not solving problems. While getting young kids to open their minds leads to its share of Boston Public-style problems (contraception, lawsuits, raunchy cheerleading), it’s much better then sending a child to school only to have him/her love for learning systematically destroyed.

But every now and again, something interesting happens.

Towards the tail end of my stay, they had begun to introduce a subject called 'Pendidikan Moral' which means quite literally, moral education. Most of it was Sunday School Golden Rule stuff (always tell the truth, don’t steal) but one lesson stands out.

One day, our moral(istic) teacher gave us a scenario to work out. It went something like this:

"Earth is about to be destroyed and you must escape on a rocket ship that carries only 5 people. But there are 8 of you. Who do you choose?"

Among those in the running:

A scientist.
A farmer.
A teacher.
A religious leader.
A drug addict.
A convict.
A woman.
A soldier.

The ‘correct’ answer was as follows:

The scientist.
Because the scientist will know how to fly the rocket ship and will know how to search for a new world we can all live on.

The soldier.
To protect us on our new planet and to fight off any enemies we might encounter. The soldier is also disciplined so he will help make the laws.

The teacher.
Because the teacher will preserve mankind’s knowledge and teach it to future generations.

The religious leader.
Because we all need God in our lives.

The woman.
So she can choose a husband from among them and ‘continue the human race.’

It’s a testament to young kids’ innate curiosity that even under the mind-numbing tedium of our syllabus, our pre-pubescent minds were still able to question. Naturally, we wanted to know why the rest were left behind.

The teacher was confident in her answers, as if she’d anticipated every single question, analysed every possible argument and Solomon-like, rendered her opinions:

The convict.
He is a dangerous man (yes, a MAN) and he will want harm us. That is why he is in jail to begin with.

The drug addict.
He is doing illegal things. “Dadah itu haram,” she intoned gravely ('drugs are forbidden'). She also reminded us that in Malaysia, drug trafficking is punishable by the death penalty.

The farmer.
Because the scientist already knows how to grow things. A man who knows how to fly a rocket ship surely knows how to grow things for everyone to eat. We don't need a farmer.

I believe that children are our future.
Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

La Familia

As happens every Chinese New Year, I’ve seen every relative within driving distance.
This year’s reunions have skated quite close to the line marked ‘overkill.’ Rainy weather, food poisoning and an unusually patient sister have conspired to turn my house into The Truckstop for Family Solidarity, with rellies arriving one family at a time instead of all at once.

Any more Family Togetherness and I’ma slash my wrists with Mom’s kitchen knife.
As such, I won’t bore you with re-runs of 53 Reasons Why I Love My Big Happy Family.

But I will tell you who makes up the cast, some of whom have moved on to that big TV show in the sky.
  • Someone who’s won a car.
  • A gang leader. He had a territory and henchmen and cronies.
  • A mother who’s buried four of her children.
  • A guy with three thumbs.
  • A guy with only one ear, the other one completely severed in a car crash.
  • An ex-call girl. Quite a few doctors said her former profession was the reason why she can never ever have children. She now has a son.
  • A guy who taught math to his math teacher, who then proceeded to teach it to his students and had to be corrected.
  • Six kids born out of wedlock.
  • A guy who’s been carjacked twice and kidnapped once.
  • A man who was beaten because he was accused of being a Japanese sympathizer during the occupation. He never recovered but hung on for more than a year, shitting blood every other day til he died.
  • A premature baby, so tiny she spent two weeks in an incubator and then a month in a small drawer. The cot wouldn’t arrive for a while because there was no money.
  • Someone who’d had a threesome.
  • A guy who’s had the shittiest luck with maids. One kept stealing his wife’s knickers and writing ‘I love him’ on the crotch, the other somehow managed to do some light prostitution when he wasn’t home.
  • Someone who learnt Dutch one week, and moved to Amsterdam the next.
  • Someone who used to – briefly - sell pirated movies on VCD.
  • A guy who used to work at Disney illegally for eight years.
  • Someone who’s jumped on my stomach, bruising it and rupturing my bladder.
  • A guy whom I’ve punched in the stomach.
  • Someone whom I’ve left waiting in the rain for a full two hours because she said my house was ‘like a pigeon hole.’ I told her there was no space for her and her ‘bitching’ family. My dad told me it was wrong to do that - say ‘bitching.’
  • Someone whom I caught stealing money and kept quiet about it.
  • Someone who has a mail-order bride. Ok, maybe not mail-order. But definitely one in a series of options. Honestly, she’s too good for him.
  • Someone who’s eaten dog meat.
Oh, they're not bad.
They’re family.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Even a brick wants to be something

He thinks he’s Chris Tucker.
He thinks he’s so fucking funny.
He wears this T-shirt with a devil on it saying ‘God is busy. Can I help you?’

By all measures, IG is a grade-A jerk and a half.
Genetically devoid of tact or class, he’s openly leered at every new female employee that’s joined.
The last time we were colleagues, he was asked to leave after I saw him throw a chair at a fellow worker.
He’s screamed at one of his closest friends in the middle of a work day saying “You fucked her! You fucked my girlfriend! You fucker!”

Don’t like me? Fire my ass.
And people have.
IG don’t give a shit about nobody.
IG don’t need nobody’s help.
Then one day he comes to my place.

He’s dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of slacks. Brand new from the looks of it, and IG is completely uncomfortable. The act of putting on something that was actually washed must’ve been quite traumatic, as his constant fingering of the collar shows. He’s also sweating. My theory is it’s the physical strain of not swaggering. Or maybe it’s the hardship of keeping his hands to himself and not making his fingers perform some lewd gesture (his favourite was a V-sign, in-between which he would stick his tongue in a flicking motion).

I’m not the only one that sees this of course.
In fact, just passing through the department and coming up to my cubicle, he sends a ripple through the crowd in this Moses-parting-the-Red-Sea kinda way.

“Hey, I need to ask you something man.”
The tone, it’s all wrong when he says it. This can’t be right. Is he, Holy Fuck, is he being courteous?

“What is it?” I ask. I keep it even, but I really don’t know where this is going.
“You know how to tie a tie?”
“Can you tie mine?”

I offer my palm, and he hands it to me. An awful, gaudy, polyester serpent.
If any of you have met me, you’d know: I ain’t Carson Kressly. But hey, even I wanted to bitch-slap him. Some shit, you just don’t wear man.

But I start tying it. For the record, I don’t usually care. We’re not friends. We don’t even say a hundred words to each other in a year. But I gotta know.

“What’s going on. You got an interview or something?”
“Yeah, kind of.”
I look up at him.
“I’m meeting her parents tonight.”

Well, fuck me dead.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Write and wrong

I write for a living. I’m very lucky cos I get paid for doing what I love.

But every now and again, I get asked to write stuff which I have problems with.
It’s not the writing itself.
It’s...well, you’ll see.

Colleagues in practically every company I’ve worked for have asked me to write theirs. I’ve written so many that I’ve actually got a protocol. First, I tell them:
  • Resignations are private matters, and best done by one’s self.
  • Resignations don’t need to be creative. Just clear. And the message is remarkably consistent, regardless of position or industry (I’m leaving, duh).
  • There are several excellent websites from which you can grab templates. Just Google ‘resignation letters.’
Course, this does nothing to deter people.

Firstly, they want to send a message. They range from “I want to say I’m happy to leave and fuck y’all, but I don’t want to burn any bridges” to “I don’t want really want to go, but I want it to sound like I’m very serious about it.”

Worst of all, my suggestion to download a standard format is met with “Yeah, I’ve seen those. I want something different. I don’t want what’s out there already, y’know?”

It gets worse.
I sometimes get referrals from people who’ve resigned, and they say “Your last few letters are starting to look the same. Can you gimme something different?”

I have written complaint letters to:
  • Banks (a lot of banks)
  • Internet Service Providers
  • Neighbours
  • Pet Shops
I try and persuade people to give these establishments a call and do it on the phone.
Plus mail takes a while to go through ‘the system’ (they all got some kinda system). Calls are faster and more direct.

No dice.

“I want to sound very unhappy! I want it to be strongly worded with…strong words!”
And almost all of them want me to end on a threat. Preferably something about going to the papers.
But when I say “Ok, which paper do you want to cc on this little note?” they go “Er, I just want you to imply it.”

Emails of generally dubious intention
Requests I’ve entertained (sometimes with regret):
  • Rejecting an unwanted date (“He’s such a fucking creep. But don’t be mean. He's my boss.”)
  • Asking someone out (“Try not to make me sound needy. Don’t do it like you do it.”)
  • Various email wars about various stupid company matters (I’ve actually stopped doing these since I’m very uncomfortable with my writing being the match that ignites the shitstorm, not to mention being very frustrated when the person complains that “It doesn’t sound like something I would say.”)
Which brings me to the problem I have with all this.
Is that how people see me?
A writer of nasty letters?
Do people see some vicious streak they find handy in unpleasant situations?

I love writing.
It’s something I want to do forever.
Something that has my signature on it.

But is that what my signature reads?

‘Asshole. But useful.’

Saturday, January 07, 2006

55 words

You're tired, aren't you old man?

Tired of seeing all the kids run to that clown.
It used to be that children trusted you cos you looked like granddaddy.
They'd sit on your lap, let you play with them.
Now they flock to a man wearing makeup.
Look at them, licking his snow cones. Fuck!